The wide reach of Clarence Avant, who was widely known as “the Godfather of Black Entertainment” and died Sunday at the age of 92, was evident from the range of people paying tribute to him on social media after his death was announced Monday morning. His influence spanned music, entertainment, sports, politics and beyond.
Within just a couple of hours, former President Bill Clinton, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, Jay-Z’s Roc Nation Entertainment, Clive Davis, and many former presidential staffers had paid tribute to Avant — pictured above, right, with Jay-Z and Sony Music Chairman Jon Platt at Avant’s 2021 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame — on social media or via statement.
Rev. Jackson wrote: “#ClarenceAvant, a legend in the music industry, was the go-to guy for many of us in the music industry including #BerryGordy of Motown, #AlBell of Stax Records, and a countless list of others. He helped promote their careers and expand their businesses.”
“Clarence Avant isn’t just the ‘Godfather Of Black Music,’ he is our cultural Godfather,” Roc Nation wrote in a collective statement. “Throughout his life, he burst through doors and tore down ceilings, changing lives and providing opportunities for generations. A true pioneer, a mentor and a champion, Clarence Avant is and always will be a giant among us.”
Clinton wrote, “Hillary and I are deeply saddened by the passing of our friend Clarence Avant, whose legendary career brought artists and their music to millions of people. He also used his success to open doors of opportunity to new generations of entrepreneurs and promoters. He was skillful, savvy, warm, and wise. It was impossible to spend time with him and not come away feeling more positive and wanting to follow his example. We just loved him.”
Former Democratic National Committee Chair Donna Brazile wrote: “Goodbye my friend. Sending my condolences to his family and many friends.”
Sherriliyn Ifill, president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, wrote: “ ‘The Godfather’ has left us. This man was singularly responsible for helping so many Black artists get paid their worth. Also was a wonderful supporter & former board member of @NAACP_LDF.”
In a statement to Variety, Clive Davis wrote: “Clarence Avant was truly one of a kind. His passing is a great loss of someone who is irreplaceable. Clarance’s extraordinary contribution to music and the barriers he broke throughout his career are unrivaled. He was the mentor to all Black executives in the music industry for decades, providing invaluable guidance and support while always standing up for equal rights. Clarence was humane and fair and inspired love and respect from all who knew him. I personally loved him and will miss him forever.”
Former White House aide and National Black Justice Coalition co-founder Keith Boykin wrote: “Clarence Avant managed Sarah Vaughan, discovered Bill Withers, promoted Michael Jackson’s first solo world tour, and served as chairman of Motown… RIP King.”
Filmmaker Matthew A. Cherry wrote: “Rest in peace Clarence Avant. You changed the game for real.”